Americans Don’t Like Journalists

One of the oddest aspects of the various arguments around Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is the perennial fussing among self-proclaimed journalists over whether what he’s doing “really” counts as “journalism.” I’m interested in this topic because I sometimes find myself as the center of disputes on the same subject. And I always think it’s odd, because the way it plays out is that in the small world of self-proclaimed journalists it’s taken for granted that being a “journalist” is a very good thing and you should be very sad if you’re not one. The reality is that as best I can tell journalism is not a particularly high-status or well-regarded profession:

Please Tell Me How You Would Rate the Honesty and Ethical Standards of People in These Different Fields 1

At any rate, none of my personal self-esteem is bound up in what ontological category people want to put my work in. I like to think that I write an interesting blog, that’s somewhat informative and somewhat entertaining. If I write a column, I like to hear it praised. Anytime someone tells me they liked my book, that makes me happy. And so I’m egomaniacal enough that if journalists were widely respected in America the way that nurses and cops are, I’d be eager to claim that status for myself. But they’re not and nobody really knows how to define media occupational categories in the digital age, so my advice to Assange and his critics would be to both let this point of contention drop. WikiLeaks needs to be more careful about redacting names from military documents, and the military needs to stop stamping “classified” on everything in sight.